Blind Irishman makes polar history

AN Irishman has achieved the remarkable feat of being the first blind man to reach the South Pole.

Mark Pollock, 32, and his teammates Simon O’Donnell and Inge Solheim, trekked to the Pole unaided by dog teams or skidoos, carrying all their food and fuel behind them on large 90kg pulk sleds.

Taking part in the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race, Mark and his teammates travelled entirely on foot for an average of 14 hours a day in the coldest, driest place on Earth.

Their team, SouthPoleFlag.com, finally reached the Pole on Monday after a gruelling trek of 47km, ending their epic 770km journey over 22 days.

Speaking from the South Pole, an emotional Mark, who lost his sight at the age of 22, said: “We’re here. We’ve done it. I’m standing at the South Pole.”

Often braving temperatures as low as -50C, the team suffered from blisters, exhaustion and hunger.

Simon suffered frostbite to his ear on the second day of the race and to his fingers in the final few days. Inge also lost a filling from one of his teeth due to the severe cold, but said despite the severe conditions Mark was the inspiration to keep going.

“During 13-hour days, it’s not easy to motivate yourself to do it. Mark is my purpose to wake in the morning and ski for 13 hours.

“What he is doing is so important for everyone as an example,” he said.

Prior to the race, it was thought Mark’s only advantage as a blind man was that he would be less likely to suffer from polar shock, a psychological phenomenon which affects some who cannot deal with the nothingness of Antarctica.

Speaking from the Pole, Mark said he was determined to prove that a blind person could reach the most southerly point on Earth.

“Other blind people had attempted to reach the South Pole in the past and failed. I was determined to prove it could be done,” he said.


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